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7 Questions on Leadership with Matheus Tait


Name: Matheus Tait


Title: Managing Director


Organisation: Thoughtworks


Matheus holds a degree in Computer Engineering with a specialization in innovation management. He has been working with technology and leadership roles since the mid-1990s and his experience spans countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, the United States, Poland, and Spain.


He contributed to companies from startups to global corporations and has also worked at academic institutions, open-source foundations, and research centers. He identifies himself more as a generalist than a specialist.


Matheus started working at Thoughtworks +10 years ago and is currently serving as Managing Director of Spain, where he oversees the country's business, and plays a role in the company's Global Extended Leadership Team.


Matheus loves to work with ambitious business and technology endeavors, while striving to contribute to create a fairer, better world for all.


Outside work, he treasures moments with family, friends, and his dog and enjoys music, books, traveling, and a good glass of wine.


Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!


I hope Matheus' answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Cheers,

Jonno White



1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?


Transitioning into leadership was not a planned or intentional move for me. Someone at the company placed more trust in me than I had in myself. Being shy and introverted, I once (wrongly) believed that leadership was for extroverts.


I had to reshape this belief and learn to lead with authenticity while embracing who I am. That wasn't easy, and it has taught me valuable lessons about myself and human nature.


2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?


Let's take a step back in time a few decades to when I moved from being a software developer to becoming a project leader. Back then, the person leading the project I worked on resigned.


Due to the project's complex nature, it was not a case for an external backfill. The company decided to have the team vote on their preferred leader, and to my utter surprise, they chose me. I reluctantly accepted.


This first experience showed me the significance of collective results versus individual contribution. Also the importance of people, alignment, clarity on objectives, motivation, inclusion, and communication. From there, it was a natural progression towards broader roles and eventually executive leadership.


3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?


In recent years, I've prioritized self-care, including exercise and meditation. On a typical day, I wake up, spend time with my daughter, then walk her to school on some days (my wife and I take turns doing that).


After breakfast, I tackle work, starting with creative tasks or the ones requiring more concentration and focus. I review my day to decide what's essential, what blocks other people, and what I can delegate or postpone. I will let all needed folks know if something was postponed, and for when, so they know I am aware.


This morning routine suits me well as I'm an early bird, and urgent matters in Spain tend to arise later in the day. After that, most of my day involves meetings. Some of them are occasional client visits to understand their context and challenges.


I always insert informal conversations within the organization as well. In the afternoon, I take a meditation break around 3:00 pm. A few times a week, I hit the gym after work.


Evenings are for family. Drawing with my daughter, reading bedtime stories, and having dinner with my wife. Before bed, I enjoy reading, music, or watching a sci-fi series.


4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?


My current job involves managing a professional services business, and it's easy sometimes to get stuck in details, operations, and internal processes. When it happens, I have to remind myself of something.


Despite the several models, acronyms, levers, and buzzwords, when you boil it down to its core, managing this kind of organization is about two things: What our clients need and what our people need.


After all, we must enable our clients to achieve their goals. And to do that, we need capable and motivated people. My responsibility as a leader is to maintain this equilibrium. So, preventing all the noise from overshadowing the basic equation (Success = Clients + People) is essential.


When stuck in details, I often stepped back and asked myself two questions: "What do my clients need?" and "What do my people need?" and focus on that.


5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?


When they invited me to lead a business, my impostor syndrome flared up. Being an avid reader, I devoured business and operations books. Yet, upon entering the role, I realized that I rarely applied those concepts day-to-day.


That knowledge helped me orchestrate the organization's components, of course. But it was ultimately about people, not about processes or numbers.


I revamped my reading list after that insight. Selecting one book is tough. So If you ask me tomorrow, my answer might change. Today, I'll go with "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman.


Although not a management or a leadership book, it made me a better leader. This book offers insights into human thinking and behavior.


Those insights are rich in many areas. For instance, decision-making, effective communication, team diversity, avoiding biases, and nurturing an environment for teamwork and innovation.


6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?


People will surprise you when they're spontaneous and authentic. You will surprise yourself if you can be spontaneous and authentic. Focus on creating a psychologically safe space where people can be themselves.


Where they can try, err, and learn and try again. Then define clear goals, and be flexible in how to get there. Encourage experimentation, diverse solutions, diverse teams, and learning from mistakes.


I often recall the phrase, "Be stubborn about your objectives but flexible about your tactics."


7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?


In the early days of leading an entire organization, I faced the task of addressing everyone in an All Hands meeting. My public speaking and communication skills concerned me, given my shyness and introversion.


Let's say I was not inclined toward public speaking. Seeking guidance, I reached out to a respected leader within the company. He told me that the secret didn't lie in delivering a dazzling presentation or becoming a showman.


The secret was having absolute clarity about where I aimed to steer the organization. Also have clarity on why that direction, and about our main goals and values.


Finally, to acknowledge what I didn't know and be honest and vulnerable about it. The rest would flow naturally, according to him.


What began as advice on public speaking became an invaluable guidance about clarity of purpose. This guidance aided me in that presentation, and throughout my entire leadership experience.

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